Small Business Spotlight: Simply Vague owners tout Ohio-made goods at stores and beyond

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Andrea and Nate Archibald's first Simply Vague store began as a side venture. The couple worked in new home sales when they decided to open a small storefront in 2012 in downtown Delaware showcasing Ohio-made goods.

The Archibalds channeled their shared love of shopping at farmers markets, art fairs and craft shows into the business, working with area artisans to sell one-of-a-kind products on consignment.

Shoppers embraced the concept so quickly and with so much enthusiasm that within two months the Archibalds opened a second store in the Mall at Tuttle Crossing.

"We realized immediately after opening that we were onto something and that we needed to find a way to get even more locally-made products in front of larger audiences," Andrea says.

Simply Vague has since expanded to include three locations in central Ohio, filled with products from more than 250 vendors. The stores support artists, handcrafters, food artisans, inventors and entrepreneurs, all of whom live in Ohio.

An ever-evolving collection of unique goods, from apparel and jewelry to artwork and furniture, inspired the store name. "Simply Vague covers all the bases," Andrea says.

"The range is literally everything," she adds. "We are pretty much the ultimate gift store."

The Archibalds initially searched for potential vendors and products at farmers markets and other gatherings of craftspeople and artists. When they added their second, larger location in Dublin, however, the goods started coming directly to them.

"It was crazy how many people would show up to our store with a bagful of products" to sell, Andrea says. "It was one of those things, 'If you build it, they will come.' We got a lot of people that way."

Simply Vague continually seeks new Ohio-made products, and offers an online vendor application for product reviews.

As the stores have evolved, so has the merchandise. The most popular items often highlight Ohio or its cities in the design. "There is more state pride and city pride in Columbus than I feel like anywhere else," Andrea says. "If Ohio is incorporated, it will sell."

The Archibalds' vision to create opportunities for small businesses extends beyond their stores.

An increasing number of requests for online sales led the couple to recently launch a service called Modest Box-gift boxes containing an assortment of handpicked, Ohio-made items available for delivery both in and out of state. The boxes, which can be purchased month-to-month ($89 per box) or in three-, six-, or 12-month prepaid subscriptions, come in an assortment of sizes. The Big Box, for example, is gender specific and contains a mix of food products, accessories, body products and/or art, according to the service's website,

Simply Vague also hosts the Made LOCAL Marketplace, an artisan show that promotes buying local and helps many of the stores' vendors to reach a new audience. A portion of the proceeds from each show (there are typically several held throughout the year) benefits a nonprofit organization.

Networking with others who share a love for Ohio through Simply Vague and the Made LOCAL Marketplace has been both inspiring and fun, says Andrew VanderLind, co-owner of Where I'm From, an apparel company founded in Columbus.

VanderLind and his business partner, Ryan Napier, partnered with Simply Vague last year to sell their line of comfy T-shirts with original designs (a "Buckeye Ohio" graphic and the state flag in the shape of Ohio, for example). The shirts quickly became a best-seller, and in the year since they first appeared in store, the company has evolved from part-time hobby into full-fledged business. VanderLind and Napier opened their first Where I'm From standalone mini shop at Summit Mall near Akron, and plan to add two more locations across Ohio this spring.

"I think the biggest thing is they've provided a really solid outlet, not just for myself but for others in the community," VanderLind says of the Simply Vague team. "And, on a more personal side, they have always been great to us. Really helpful, really kind."

Rachel Worley of Westerville says she's enjoyed the experience of selling her vegan and cruelty-free nail polish line-named James Robert John, after her young son-at Simply Vague. Her monthly sales started small at the Polaris Fashion Place location but have since doubled, at least, she says.

"Every time I go in there, I always see other vendors," Worley says. "It kind of brings it back. It's personal. It's real. It's just something that I think is so special."

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.